Every month we publish new data, showing how different consumers are faring and feeling in the tough economic climate. This month, we identified how many households are struggling to pay for food.
Our latest Consumer Insight Tracker data found that five million UK households needed to use credit or savings to cover their spending on food last month.
That’s a huge number, so we looked deeper to find out who these people are. We discovered that many of them are low-income families, they’re likely to be financially vulnerable and are typically aged 30-49 years old with children. Nearly half of these families are on the lowest incomes, earning £21,000 or less per year.
With food prices rising in the last year, it isn’t surprising that shoppers tell us that the cost of food is one of their top three worries. Eight in 10 of the struggling households say they’re worried about food prices. More than half say they plan to cut back spending on food in the coming months. However, others feel they’re not able to cut back when trying to feed their households.
Using savings to pay for food
I was shocked by these findings. I didn’t realise so many people can’t afford to cover their monthly food bill. And as well as using credit and savings to cover their spending, it seems struggling households are resorting to all sorts of means to get by and put food on the table. A third of them borrowed money from family or friends, while more than one in 10 defaulted on a bill last month.
While they use more credit and whittle down their savings, I’m not surprised that two thirds of these households are worried about their savings levels and the same proportion are worried about their levels of debt.
The food budgeting challenge
I’ve had a look into how much people typically spend on their food bills – around £76 a week on average. Yet, in the last year food prices have risen by around 4% – something has to give.
I do most of my food shopping online and, to save money, always check the special offers to see what deals I can get. Although, sometimes it means we eat the same thing for a few days just because it’s reduced! I’ve also discovered a great fruit and veg stall at our local market that’s much cheaper than going to the supermarket.
In a previous Conversation, DiB shared a tip for making your food budget go further, while acknowledging that it’s not always an easy tip to follow:
‘In the present economic climate many shoppers go for the cheap option rather than value. I found that buying better quality means I buy less, waste less, and it goes further. But then when I’m faced with what’s in my purse at the time the better quality product often stays on the shelf.’
What action have you taken to make ends meet and cover food bills? How have you noticed the impact of increased food prices on your monthly spending?